Dreams Then; Dreams Now

An astonishing dream of years past amazes residents of today and continues to amaze me and my wife, Donna Rosenthal (I-House alumna 1968-70). Donna, like so many of you, loved her I-House experience, so much so that she dreamed in 1969 -- 16 years before we met! -- that eventually she would settle in Berkeley and be married to a future I-House Executive Director. That I was privileged to be chosen in 1987 as the Housešs third Executive Director only a year after our marriage, continues to be a source of wonder.

I too had a dream shortly after I completed my service as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya in late 1969. I was so deeply transformed by my experiences, so enlightened to my ignorance and cultural blinders, that I dreamed of a career that would enable people to have close and profoundly revealing experiences with those whose cultural, racial, or national backgrounds were very different. And yes, I imagined that some day, I would help lead an organization that was devoted to these ideals.

Now, almost eleven years since this vision was initially fulfilled and after many years of living it with my wife, our residents, staff, Board and alumni, I have come to dream again -- this time a compelling yearning for I-House and its future.

As many of you know, we have been renovating the House as part of a very expensive, yet absolutely essential ten-year building restoration plan. In our renovation update you will see how much progress we have made and how we have funded almost six million dollars of work over the past five years -- almost half of this through the special generosity of alumni and friends.

Joseph Lurie

As we approach the next five years of pending projects, estimated to cost at least 6 million dollars, my recurring dream is this: that one of our financially blessed alumni or friends will come forward -- having seen or experienced here the life-changing power of our mission -- and will make a grand gift from the heart of perhaps even several million dollars to help take care of our House for the next generation of residents. It will be a gift that will dramatically complement the thousands of gifts and other sources of support necessary to sustain the House and its mission over the long term.

A crazy dream? An unreasonable fantasy? Perhaps, but consider this: This past summer, we received notice that the late Charles Ramsden, I-House alumnus 1931-32, left I-House $1.7 million for a financial aid endowment. And John D. Rockefeller, Jr., fulfilled Harry Edmonds' dream back in 1928 with a gift of $1.8 million to create our Berkeley I-House. In today's terms, that $1.8 million gift translates to about $16 million.

In the early 1900's, it was a dream to imagine a House where differences could, without fear, be shared and celebrated; where those differences drawn from all parts of the planet could be a source not of fear and ignorance, but of joy and a stretching of the human spirit. Because our building was initially provided so that people with many differences could live together in mutual respect, our highest priority must be on continuing the critical process of renovating and preserving this splendid facility for generations to come. Restoring and maintaining our building is the most important way to honor Harry Edmonds' dream and to ensure its future as a living symbol of the life-expanding possibilities of intercultural living.

And so now, as we approach a new century and our 70th anniversary, I dream of a beautifully restored House, one responsive to the needs of the disabled; one that enhances safety at the very edge of the Hayward fault; one that provides our residents with hi-tech support for their academic success; and one that addresses the remaining outdated and decaying parts of a building that is the fundamental vehicle for carrying out our mission. Yes, I have a dream, and I am convinced that sharing this with all of you will help it come true.


Joseph Lurie
Executive Director

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